Shift Communications: Profile Of A Public Relations Firm

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SHIFT Communications is a top-tier PR & marketing firm comprised of over one hundred smart and creative professionals working out of Boston, San Francisco, NYC, and Austin. In Europe it works with and through an affiliate, the Hoffman Agency. Put simply, SHIFT seeks, builds, and converts new audiences capable of driving business expansion for consumer, media, and technology companies.

The company was founded when assets of the former PR firm Sterling Hager were acquired by three of their former executives (Jim Joyal, Todd Defren, and Ed Weiler) in 2003. The three then renamed the firm to SHIFT Communications. In 2006, SHIFT created its first social media release – widely believed to be the first social media press release from any agency. Some of the top movers and shakers in the firm include Christopher Penn, Amy Lyons, and Paula Finestone.

Christopher Penn

Christopher Penn – Interdisciplinary Entrepreneur

Christopher Penn, SHIFT’s vice president of marketing technologies, writes features for leadership in marketing and new media in many books and in publications like the Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, and on television networks such as CNN, Fox News, PBS, CNBC, and ABC News.

Before Penn joined SHIFT, he directed inbound marketing at an email marketing company called WhatCounts and co-founded the PodCamp New Media Community Conference. Beyond Penn’s SHIFT-related duties, he also works as an adjunct professor of Internet marketing and the lead subject matter expert and professor of Advanced Social Media at the University of San Francisco. He has authored book, Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer.

Penn specializes in analytics and effectively using marketing tech for SHIFT. He said: “We got going on marketing automation in my first three months here [at SHIFT] and now we’re going into big data and machine learning.” All of that works well with one of his oldest pursuits, mastery of Togakure-Ryu (also known as Ninjutsu), in which he holds a black belt. This ancient Japanese martial art makes use of whatever is handy, but especially spears, sticks, and swords for battle. He equates the battle skills he’s learned with the skills he’s learned in marcomms; it’s about bringing a better skill level to the playing field.

Amy Lyons shit communications

Amy Lyons – Versatile President

Amy Lyons is the Managing Partner of SHIFT Communications, and as the leader she works to maintain SHIFT’s position at the forefront of the PR industry. Her primary responsibilies are the strategic direction of the agency, ensuring SHIFT’s continuing delivery of the best creative, innovative, and service offerings its clients expect.

Lyons works with SHIFT’s vice presidents in Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Her 15 years of communications experience has served her well during her drawing the operational discipline and talent required to keep the agency growing and push SHIFT’s mission and business objectives to new, untouched heights.

In her spare time she embraces the chance to work with various boards involved in leadership, community, and charity such as the Women’s Advisory Board, the Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England. Her motto – as connected to her board comments, is “Embrace the space” … and one of her favorite things to do is venture out on road trips.

Paula Finestone

Paula Finestone: SHIFT Comm’s EVP of Operations

Paula and SHIFT go back to 2003 when the agency was relaunched. She’s in charge of the operational well-being and fiscal health of the organization. She serves on the company’s board of directors, adding her insights and observations regarding agency policy and expansion as well as human capital management.
Away from the office, she loves to run – ultra-running especially. She’s participated in and completed five 100-mile marathons and is a member of a local running club. The motto she feels fits her best is “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

SHIFT is a Google Analytics™ Certified Partner and is a laudable PR firm. Founders Jim Joyal and Todd Defren still show as active leaders on the company website, but though their fellow founder, Ed Weiler, was COO for many years, he is no longer with the agency.

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Shift Communications and Media Impressions

Put broadly, impressions are any interaction between a piece of content and an audience member. For instance, when a customer buys a major newspaper, every article read on that first page for the first time is one impression. Driving past a billboard on a highway is also an impression. Every ad on the edge of a Facebook page counts as an impression, too. An impression is an atomic metric element for any earned, owned, or paid media’s performance.

Impressions matter when a client has a choice between a small and large potential audience for an impression. If all audiences are equal in potential earnings, then the larger group becomes the logical choice. Simply put, impressions bring the world, the total reachable audience, and the broader PR and marketing funnel together.

Many PR measurement efforts do not include impressions. Since they are the very beginning of a campaign, the amount of work required for an impression seems small compared to the full-course campaign. A first impression via billboard does not necessitate an impressed client buying the product. Food doesn’t work on a full (or sick) belly.

Post-impression, engagement is the number one method of measuring effective advertising and digital PR, and this is best measured online. Metrics include anything from simple patterns like bounce rate and time on page to more complex metrics such as social media engagement and organic search over time.

The second step measures conversion. Which impressions convinced viewers to follow through on the call to action? It could be walking into a store to buy a product, clicking a link to a story, or filling out some form. With conversion, determining which measurable, quantifiable thing did the audience do post-impression, and did this help the business becomes the focus.
Contrary to popular conception, impressions matter because business uses them to suture or stitch viewers into the narrative of the sale. Putting a good initial position in the mind of a consumer lessens the work required to convert the viewer into a buyer, and increases overall profit and productivity. In short, respecting a customer’s desire for a “big picture,” or the need to integrate the product into their daily life and values helps business, and SHIFT’s expertise continues to grow in this area.

Update: Scott Monty, listed originally in this article, is not listed among SHIFT’s leaders any longer and so was removed from the article and replaced with information on Paula Finestone. In May of 2016, SHIFT was acquired by Canada’s largest PR holding company, National PR. At the time of the acquisition, Andrew Molson, NATIONAL’s Chairman, said: “Our story is one of sustained targeted growth. We are thrilled to welcome SHIFT into the NATIONAL fold. Their stellar industry reputation, notably in data-driven PR, and their geographical footprint add significant value to our current and future service offering.”

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